M.J. Cain

illustrations by
Cirrelda Snider

Near Horizons
A Weekender’s Guide to Easy Getaways
from Albuquerque

236 pages

6 x 9 inches



This is a guidebook designed to assist the Albuquerque dweller who may not have a lot of time, or a huge budget, but who still needs regular doses of “escape.” Santa Fe and Taos are not discussed, because so many tour books cover these towns to the nth degree. There are a host of places roughly 1 to 3 1/2 hours away from Albuquerque just fine for a weekend, if not necessarily ideal for a long vacation. Trips are chosen based on distances that are an easy reach (primary destinations are 179 miles or less)—Jemez Springs, Pecos, Grants, Cuba, Chimayo, Gallup, Quemado, Carrizozo, Truth or Consequences, Conchas Lake, Dulce / Chama, Tres Ritos, and Aztec. This book is a treasure trove of information about places close at hand but not usually thought of as destinations. Here they are presented as delightful journeys with practical knowledge about lodgings, restaurants, day hikes, flora and fauna, recreational resources, camping opportunities, historical context, architectural insights, flavorful neighborhoods, local culture, useful tips, navigation, and interesting facts about the contrasting environments of New Mexico. Though the book is specifically oriented to “getaways” from Albuquerque, its contents are pertinent to anyone wishing to visit these overlooked areas.

M.J. Cain has written articles, reports, and books spanning archeology to public history. The author has studied and explored New Mexico and the Southwest for the past fifteen years, assisted by human and canine companions. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Jemez Mountains / Cañon de San Diego

Statement about drawings for book Near Horizons

When I was given the job of illustrating M.J. Cain’s book describing car trips from Albuquerque, I knew I could do it. My Raritan and Strathmore, Bienfang and Academy wirebound sketchbook/journals hold my gesture drawings of views from the driver’s seat, or in-situ sketches from riverbanks or hilltops, spanning over 30 years. At my UNM drawing and ceramic classes, chosen subjects were depictions of scenes from car windows. Buried in the Sandoval County dump is a large tile piece (I put there in the early 80’s) of my sister’s 63 Volvo window framing the hump of the Sandias seen from the outskirts of Santa Fe. That piece was refired to cone 08 with silver lustre glaze on the edge, perfectly matching “Emily” Volvo’s back window. You’ll never see it — have to take my word for it!

This passion for associating the landscape with the car window has beginnings from the annual trips to visit both grandmothers with my parents and sister in various Chevrolet and Volvo station wagons. One grandmother lived a two-hour car trip northeast of Tulsa in my mother’s home town of Ponca City. There were a myriad of routes to take, and my parents, following in the footstep/cartreads of many a mid-twentieth century Midwestern family, would pick a different Farm-to-Market corner to turn on each trip. In 9th grade I documented a scene from those Oklahoma trips: how the eye views the planted parallel crop rows from the road, with background edge of deciduous trees.

My dad’s mother lived in Corrales, in a one bedroom rental owned by the Lineau clan. On trips from Tulsa to Albuquerque, my father got to return to the land of his youth, where road vision was unobstructed by the hazy skies and massive vegetation that would crowd my dad’s view more in Oklahoma or anywhere back east. Like clockwork each summer, we packed the “well” of the back of the station wagon (making room to lie down in the way back), heading out after my dad got off work in the evening, so that we divvied up the trip with a motel stop in either Amarillo or Tucumcari along Route 66. That first “mountain” (Tucumcari Mountain is a mesa/butte) was always so thrilling for our family.

Landforms were identified by my parents to my sister and me, the condition of the rivers we passed over commented on, history was related, passages read aloud from New Mexico Place Names or NM Geological Society Guidebooks. My dad has become known to my friends by his hours of 16 mm film footage of the white line of the highway, camera perched on his left shoulder, alternating leaning out the window or over the steering wheel, documenting the landscape of the two-lane highways of yore.

It is thus in reading Near Horizons, where M.J. Cain’s text incorporates all of these multiple viewpoints on the same page, that I found a familiar project. M.J. Cain describes the sort of places your family would find if the driver chose to turn left instead of right at the regular crossing. The author describes the geology, the architecture, the history, whether your vehicle will make it down that dirt road, where to stay and eat, and on and on. And I got to draw it!

Too bad that both of my parents (not to mention both my grandmothers) have been long gone, and thus unable to revel in this author’s complete coverage for New Mexico road trips. My dad’s photo of an excursion to Gilman Canyon graces the cover of the book.

For more of my artwork-
notecards based on these drawings plus ceramic work: go to
CC Clay

Enchanted Mesa